This comes as no surprise that I have decided to push my start date of the CDT to next year. I was suppose to start my 3000 mile hike on the Continental Divide Trail today, May 11, however with everything going on with Covid-19 it just didn't make sense for a number of reasons that I will spell out below.
1. Uncertainty of the virus
No one seems to fully understand the virus. You read one article about it then 5 minutes later you read another the says something completely different. I've come to the conclusion that no one really knows much about the virus, for all we know it could mutate in a few weeks and making it more deadly. Being a healthy individual under the age of 65 my chances of being hospitalized from it is very low however being out in the wilderness and as remote as some of those places I would be on the CDT it could take me awhile to get help. I have been sick before out in the woods with some minor stuff and it was no fun so didn't want to risk having something as bad as Covid.
2. Travel to the start will be hard
Just to get to the southern terminus of the trail I had planned on a plane ride followed by a train then a jeep. Being in that many different confined spaces would probable skyrocket my chances of getting infected. The best case would be someone to drive me from Tulsa to Mexico which wasn't going to happen.
3. I could infect others
While doing any kind of long trail trip you are relying on others to help you out along the way like stocking water coaches, hitches into town and resupplying just to name a few. Most of the time you are stopping in little towns for the most part are very isolated from the main population and those communities tend to be older in age. The one thing we know about the virus is that it attacks the elder much worse. In theory I could be a host of the virus and not be aware for a long time or not show any signs at all causing me to effect those people from town to town as I resupplied. Its doable to mail yourself all supplies to keep human contact to a minimum but still not 0.
4. I would not get to the full CDT experience
If I were to hike this year I would missed out on everything the CDT has to offer. I would miss being able to visit all the wonderful trail communities and normally that are so welcoming but some have asked to stay away this year which I fully understand. Also, there will be a lot less people on trail this year because most couldn't start before May 1. The CDT is already one of fewest long distance trail hiked so I would miss out on those other hiker connections. This is also the hostels won't be fully opened or trail angels there to greet and help out. Also, there are still parts of the trail closed like national parks and would have had to skip over.
5. Chance of a second surge of the virus
If you ask me I feel like we opened everything up way to early so I got to think there is going to be a second surge of the virus that will cause some places to shutdown again. That could be a real problem if I were on trail and the town I had planned on stopping in to resupply wasn't allowing outside people and had run out of supplies. I would think if that did happen I would probably have to end my thru-hike early as I wouldn't have time to wait around for things to open back up as I have such a small window to hike in order to make it back for the start of cross country season.
6. Body still not feeling 100%
I was slightly injured going into my marathon back in December and never took any time off to full heal and tried knocking out the high milage in hopes of an early spring marathon. That made things worse and decided back in early March to stop and heal up but the damaged had been done. After 2 months off its gotten better but still not where it should be Its nothing too bad but I really didn't want to start a hike feeling less than 100%. Now that things have opened up more I can have it looked at by a doctor.
With unemployment at record highs I felt a little nervous leaving my job behind. There is the possibility I could get replaced or they decide my job needs a pay cut. Now I know they would never do that but these are strange times so why risk it. Also, at some point they decide on pay cuts I better need to be making as much money as I can right now.
8. CDTA has basically said to stay off the trail
The Continental Divide Trail Coalition which manages the CDT has been advising to stay away from the trail until things get better. They aren't saying you can't hike but it's in everyone's best interest to delay a hike. They canceled they shuttle service to the southern terminus which is not an easy place to get to. Also, they aren't restocking the water caches those first 85 miles which most hiker rely on. I feel like they know whats best so I put a lot of stock on their opinion.
9. It just doesn't feel right
With everything that has gone on these last 2 months and no end in sight I just had the feeling that it just doesn't seem right to go hike for 3.5 months. I've been reading lot in the CDT facebook group about people giving it a try this year but only time will tell if they made the right decision. After going through all the pros and cons I feel good with my decision to delay until 2021, the trail will still be there. Now I could be running into some of all the same problems next year but I'm just going to hope for the best.